Federal regulators have indicated that they might look into Twitter over concerns about privacy issues as a handful of top executives, some of whom oversaw areas that are now of interest to the feds, have quit the company, the Washington Post reports.
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of moderation and safety, resigned from the company on Thursday, one of a group of executives who’s quit in the last few days. As recently as Wednesday, however, Roth was spotted with new Twitter headmaster Elon Musk on a massive conference call defending the platform’s new policies.
Also handing in their resignations were Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner, the company’s chief privacy officer and its chief compliance officer, according the Post. Several other employees from Twitter’s privacy and security unit reportedly also resigned.
Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission has indicated that it may be taking a closer look at Twitter over its ongoing privacy and security issues. The agency said it was “tracking the developments at Twitter with deep concern” and that it was prepared to take action to ensure Musk’s new fiefdom was complying with a previous settlement it reached with the FTC known as a consent decree.
A consent decree is an agreement or settlement that resolves a dispute between two parties without an admission of guilt (in a criminal case) or liability (in a civil case). Twitter is currently operating under a consent order requiring them to comply with certain conditions laid down by the agency regarding privacy and security due to past allegations of misuse of data in which Twitter abused user account security information, like phone numbers and emails, for use in advertising, according to CNN.
The FTC has also used consent decrees to reign in tech companies like Facebook and Google.
“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees,” said Douglas Farrar, the FTC’s director of public affairs. “Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them.” And they have, keeping in line with privacy issues companies like Google, Facebook, and Snap.
“I cannot emphasize enough that Twitter will do whatever it takes to adhere to both the letter and spirit of the FTC consent decree,” he continued. “Anything you read to the contrary is absolutely false. The same goes for any other government regulatory matters where Twitter operates.”
The quick introduction of products and features that has been one of the characteristics of Musk’s reign since he completed his $44 billion takeover at the end of October sounded the alarm amongst staffers in Twitter’s privacy department, who “said they need full security reviews that the FTC consent decree requires.”
Matt Blaze, a professor of computer science and law at Georgetown University, recently told Twitter employees to consult a lawyer “before signing anything or making any statement to regulators.”
Blaze also tweeted,“This is a bus you do NOT want to be thrown under.”
Any Twitter engineer being asked to certify compliance to a regulatory agency (such as the FTC) should seek independent (their own) legal advice before signing anything or making any statement to regulators.
This is a bus you do NOT want to be thrown under.
— matt blaze (@mattblaze) November 10, 2022
In Silicon Valley, the heat is on if you work in privacy—and the execs who resigned may have done it to save their hides.
“It’s a very hard time to be a chief information security officer or a chief privacy officer in tech right now, especially when your company doesn’t seem to care about its privacy and security practices,” Lourdes Turrecha, a cybersecurity and privacy lawyer in Silicon Valley, told the Post. If Twitter or other tech companies play fast and loose with privacy issues and end up breaking the law, “These executives do not want to put their lives on the line and go to jail.”
It’s been a wild ride for Twitter under Musk, who, since taking over, has appointed himself CEO, fired the board and made himself sole member, and laid off about half of Twitter’s 7,5000 workforce, and called all remote workers back to the office. He’s also gotten into scraps with advertisers for running his mouth, which led to some advertisers putting their campaigns on pause.